Hear from Dr. Darrell Gwaltney:
Another trait is that thriving congregations display a missional focus born out of an abiding awareness of that congregation’s particular identity.
Now keep in mind that many of these congregations with whom we were working were congregations that had recently moved through a period of substantive transformation, either social or economic change, change in their community, significant changes in leadership, even changes in the amount of congregational participation.
But as they moved through these changes, one of the things that was critical for them to becoming a thriving congregation is an abiding awareness of their identity and how that shaped their missional focus.
And so for example, they were clearly able to articulate that missional focus. Now in many of these congregations, their name had changed, or their building had changed, or the use of their building had changed dramatically. But what was true about them was that even then, they could clearly articulate their missional identity.
They had a sense of identity and theology that informed their strategy and their practice. Their theology was always in dialogue with their mission in the community.
Now additionally, what we saw was that mission really was a function of the expression or the presence of Christ in the community. As they looked into that community, even as it changed all around them, their mission became connected to the presence of Christ in that community. And that’s very important, because that congregation engaged their community.
It was the presence and it was the relationship that they had with their community that became the point [where] both their identity and their missional focus came together with that community.
This is a key trait of the thriving congregation: one who has a missional focus that is born out of an awareness of their particular identity in the community with whom they work and live and serve.